Thursday, January 31, 2013

Names and Why Author's Choose Them

I just read an article on Yahoo News that made me shake my head.  For some reason when I clicked the blue lower case “e” to get on-line, the picture of a young girl and her mother with the title “Teen finally wins the right to her own name” made me want to read more. And please don’t edit me here. I know titles should be capitalized, but Yahoo didn’t do that. That’s another pet peeve of mine – what’s happening to our grammar? But, I won’t go down that road right now; I’ll stick to the article.  Actually, I don’t usually get my news from snippets on my home page, but this one peaked my interest so I clicked on the link. Then, when the actual article appeared with the words “Icelandic girl wins the right to use her given name,” I absolutely had to read on. Amazing! I know we shouldn’t impose our way of life on other cultures – in fact that’s a topic my book club discussed while reviewing The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton (terrific book), but how can it be right for a country to decide which names are permitted, which name parents are allowed to give their child at birth?
In the case of this pretty 15 year old, Blaer, the authorities in Iceland originally rejected her name because it wasn’t feminine. Wow! They should come across the pond. How about Jordan, Chris, Dale, Francis to name only four. Imagine our authorities, whoever they would be, looking over your shoulder as you proudly state your newborn’s name. I don’t think that would go over too well here. Freedom!! We Americans can barely deal with gun control, how about name control.

Blaer is happy now. She’s looking forward to having new identity papers drawn up, papers that spell out her lovely name that means “light breeze” rather than simply stating “Girl” as she ‘s previously been officially identified. 
Writers have various reasons for the names they choose. Someday I’d like to use Blaer. I like the image of a light breeze and picture a blond with long whispy hair, nothing tight and curly. In my book club we often try to figure out why an author chose a particular name for a character. It’s a fun endeavor, though we’ll never really know the reason unless we ask the author. Some are obvious, though. Others might be chosen simply because the writer likes the sound of the name on her tongue. Or maybe she/he flipped through the phone book and pointed a finger at a random spot. I've done that.

Liz, my protagonist in Flourish, my novel that’s about to go on the agent seeking road, a bumpy one you can be sure, is named simply because  her full name, Elizabeth, starts with the same initial as the real-life character she portrays. Flourish is based on a real-life story. And, I wanted a name that could be shortened. Plus, I needed a name that her father could call her, one that was more endearing and more tender – Lizzy. You see, the real-life father did just that with the real-life character’s name, but I’m not saying what that name is – to protect the innocent.

Here’s an excerpt from chapter three. Liz's dad just found out she has an admirer and he’s not too happy about it. Her husband, Dick, recently walked out on her, after 16 years of marriage, and Daddy thinks she needs time to heal. By the way, the name Dick was chosen on purpose. Using it colloquially, he is one!
             On an afternoon in early December Walt stood outside, down-wind from The Wine Spot’s red door. With his pipe between his lips, and his scarf tight around his neck against the early winter chill, he lit the tobacco and smoked. The toasty scent filled the air, but that was all right because he was outside - he wouldn’t light up in the store. Walt was tired of hearing his daughter’s complaint, “It smells up the shop, Daddy.”

Liz was draping a silver garland across the front window when she noticed her dad through the plate glass. What a stubborn guy. He can’t wait til he goes home to smoke that pipe; he’s got to stand out in the cold. Well, sorry Dad. I love you, but I don’t want the stink in my store. She watched the kids rushing past, dragging their mommies to the toy store. They all yelled hello to Mr. Walt. Jeez, everybody loves him. And she saw the women, dressed for a holiday lunch at the Italian restaurant next door, stop to flirt before they went inside. Always the gentleman, she thought, as Walt tipped his hat to them. A white delivery van came into view, with flowers painted across its doors. Liz kept her eye on it as it made its way through the parking lot and pulled up to the curb in front of her store. She caught her father’s piercing eye following the delivery boy as he jumped out the truck’s door and jogged to the back, as he opened the hatch, and grabbed a huge bunch of roses wrapped in green cellophane. Like a cat on a bird, Walt trailed him inside. Liz dropped the garland and waited.

“Who’s that for?” she asked, when the blazing red blooms filled the entryway. She was hoping, but not counting on it. The delivery guy probably had the wrong store.

 “Someone named Liz,” said the delivery boy, looking up from the words on the envelope.

She rushed over. With her healed arm, showing a slowly fading five inch scar, she reached for the bouquet. “Thank you,” she said and turned to her father. She couldn’t help but notice his acute stare. “Daddy, please give him a tip for me.” She drew on the same manipulative voice she used as a teenager whenever she wanted to borrow the car.

Walt reached into his pocket and handed the guy a dollar. “Who’s it from, Lizzy?” he asked.

Liz opened the envelope and read the words silently. “I think of you often, Michael.” A rosy glow washed over her. Dick never sent her flowers.




1 comment:

  1. Hi Linda,
    I enjoyed this posting. It made me think of how crazy we are in Texas with our names. It's common here to name girls, Bobbie, Jimmie, Ronnie, etc. I even know a couple where the man is named Shirley and the woman is named Jimmie! Good thing we don't have government intervention here!!